Florida could still land a few more recruits before the day is done, but here's who the Gators have reeled in so far on the first day of the first-ever early signing period. Quarterback Emory Jones is their top recruit at No. 40 overall, and UF's class — counting commitments as well as signees — ranks 17th nationally.
Emory Jones, quarterback:
The centerpiece of Mullen’s early signing day haul is Emory Jones, a 4-star dual threat quarterback from Georgia who spurned his commitment to Ohio State and picked the Gators. Jones is rated as the fourth-best dual threat quarterback in the country by the 247Sports Composite and the nation’s 40th-best player overall.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Jones replaced fellow 4-star passer Matt Corral, who spent months committed to Florida before flipping to Ole Miss on Thursday night. Corral, a pocket passer, was rated as the nation’s 86th-best player.
Mullen made Jones a priority for the quarterback-starved Gators, who had just three scholarship tossers — Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask and Jake Allen — on their roster before Wednesday. Known as a quarterback guru after transforming Dak Prescott into a Heisman candidate at Mississippi State, among other success stories, Mullen’s first priority at Florida will be getting either Jones or any of UF’s other quarterbacks to a level of competence. He believes he’s off to a good start with Jones.
Evan McPherson, kicker:
While he’s Florida’s lowest-rated signee of the day and probably of the year, McPherson’s commitment to the Gators could end up being one of the most important of 2018. Junior Eddy Pineiro announced Tuesday that he’s leaving Florida early for the NFL Draft, so McPherson should challenge redshirt senior and Miami Belen Jesuit alum Jorge Powell to replace him.
McPherson is the nation’s top-rated kicking prospect.
Kyle Pitts/Dante Lang, tight end:
Florida snagged an elite tight end prospect in Kyle Pitts, a 4-star recruit from Warminster, Pennsylvania. He’s billed as the sixth-best tight end in the nation and brings great size to the position at 6-foot-6, 235 pounds.
The Gators lost tight ends Kalif Jackson and 2017 starter DeAndre Goolsby this offseason, so Pitts adds another body to the mix. But with veterans C’yontai Lewis and Moral Stephens returning along with Kemore Gamble, who was rated the seventh-best tight end in the nation in the 2017 class, Pitts could find the field later on in his career. The same is true of Dante Lang, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound tight end out of Boca Raton who is rated the 28th best at his position. Although with Mullen, more tight end involvement is possible.
While Florida didn’t use its tight ends in the passing game much under former coach Jim McElwain (Stephens led the group with 141 yards in 2017 while Goolsby and Lewis had the most touchdowns with one apiece) Mississippi State tight end Jordan Thomas amassed 227 yards and three touchdowns for the Bulldogs last season under Mullen.
Amari Burney/Trey Dean/John Huggins/Randy Russell, safety:
Florida set itself up for success at defensive back with its 2017 class, which brought six players into the group. But with seniors Duke Dawson, Nick Washington, Marcell Harris and Joseph Putu gone, signing safeties Amari Burney, John Huggins and Randy Russell bolsters the unit’s depth.
As the nation’s 15th-best safety prospect, Burney, a Clearwater native, could challenge Chauncey Gardner, Jeawon Taylor, Shawn Davis and Quincy Lenton for playing time. He has the size at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds.
Huggins is a little smaller at 6-feet, 200 pounds, and is rated a little lower at No. 32. Russell, who signed out of Miami Carol City, is even smaller at 5-fo0t-10, 180 pounds, but he’s rated higher than Huggins at No. 28. And Dean, the latest addition to Florida's class, has great length at 6-foot-2 but need to bulk up at 180 pounds. He's rated 22nd at his position.
Dameon Pierce, running back:
The Gators lost running back Mark Thompson to eligibility expiration and could also lose Jordan Scarlett, who didn’t play in 2017 but is nevertheless eligible for the NFL Draft. Florida addressed those losses with Pierce.
Rated the nation’s 10th-best running back, Pierce’s 5-foot-11, 205-pound frame is ideal. But with returning backs Lamical Perine, Malik Davis and Adarius Lemons in front of him on the depth chart, it will be an uphill climb for Pierce to see the field consistently in 2018.
That being said, he’s a higher-rated recruit then Davis was, and he finished second on the team in rushing as a true freshman.
Iverson Clement, athlete:
Clement is listed as an athlete by recruiting services, but he plays running back and is expected to stay at that position when he arrives in Gainesville. Pierce brings acceptable size at 5-foot-11, 199 pounds and is ranked as the nation’s 282nd-best recruit. Like Pierce, he'll have to claw onto the depth chart with three experienced backs ahead of him.
Chris Bleich/Noah Banks, offensive tackle:
The Gators addressed a need at offensive tackle with a pair of large additions. Chris Bleich, a 6-foot-6, 305-pound player from Plymouth, Pennsylvania, and Noah Banks, a 6-foot-7, 305-pound player from Pensacola both signed with the Gators. Bleich is rated No. 33 among high school offensive tackles while Banks is No. 6 among junior college tackles. With starting left tackle Martez Ivey possibly leaving for the NFL and with all the injuries Florida suffered along the offensive line a season ago, Mullen got some valuable depth with the two of them.
David Reese, linebacker:
The Gators will have two players named David Reese at linebacker in 2018. Junior middle linebacker David Reese led the team in tackles last season, while incoming freshman outside linebacker David Reese hopes to do the same at some point during his career in Gainesville.
The younger Reese brings height to a major position of need at 6-foot-3, 213 pounds.